The Exclusivity of a Jewel
This post is inspired by the post made by TheWolfeDen, who is a wonderful writer that you should totally read.
I am not sure if it is displayed somewhere or what, but I am officially an Emerald author! It's an honor, and being on this platform for the past seven (eight? Jesus!) years has taught me quite a bit. I'm really happy to take the next step and begin to make a little extra money for my craft. Right now, I'm charging $5 a month, and if you aren't familiar with my work, you can always check out my content that I've written over the past nearly a decade and see if you'd like to subscribe. In short, I write a bit of everything. I have been doing mostly dystopian, destroy the world type stuff, but I enjoy pretty much everything from fantasy to romance to the occasional nonfiction.
If you do peruse my content, you may find that it has taken a turn from in the beginning when I first started. There was a lot of passion and creativity, but that has kind of gone with time and age. While I do still have a lot of creativity, I'm currently juggling being a recent graduate, not having a job, writer's block every other week, my diet and the consequences of eating the American way for twenty-four years, I mean, the list goes on. But, it would be unfair for me to ask for money and subscriptions and not deliver on the goods.
Enter The Writing Graveyard! I have this problem where I dedicate one notebook to one story and I do not lke to diversify. Thus, since I was really young, I would have TONS of half-filled (or eighth-filled is more accurate) that I would get back to every few months whe I got an idea for them. But, I had to clean my room eventually so I decided that there had to be a way for me to keep all my ideas. Therefore, I started keeping them in a huge purple binder that sits in various corners of my rooms and collects the stories that I get ideas for and just never finish. So, I figure that a good way to produce content, make money, and give these ideas the lives they deserve would be to write about them.
So, cracking open my dear crypt, I plan on choosing maybe ten from my catalogue of fifty (keep in mind I have written way more than fifty stories but to not overwhelm myself and others, (sigh) I will hold back). Given some stories are more done than others, I will likely write the entirely of what I have and then continue them in priority of who is actually following the stories. I'll give myself a reasonable deadline, maybe add my Nano story attempt so I can actually focus on my Prose account again, and hopefully I'll have at least the first story chapter of each proposed book by at best, November 30th and at worst, December 11th. The first chapter of each story will be free, or there will be an add-on piece that tells you about the story in question (if I cannot just privatize them one chapter at a time). Thus, here are the proposed stories!
Number One: Romantic anthology exploring the various types of love in alphabetical order from A to Z
Number Two [The Swift Slasher]: Following a string of murders, a young girl reaches out a reporter who came to her school to ask her if she can investigate a string of murders in their area.
Number Three: Paranormal mystery about a lawyer and psychiatrist desperately trying to exonerate a thirteen-year-old boy imprisoned for killing his parents and figure out which of his personalities killed them.
Number Four: Romance story where a man tries to win his boyfriend's love back through a dating site.
Number Five: Fantasy/paranormal story about a sixteen-year-old boy traveling into the land of Make Believe to rescue his imaginary friend
Number Six: An anthology of realistic(ish) fiction stories based on my favorite Sims saves. [Don't judge me[
Number Seven [The Trial of Ursula]: A fantasy story about Ariel's older sister taking on the impossible task of being Ursula's defense attorney after she is arrested for her action in The Little Mermaid.
Number Eight: Sci-fi story following a student named Hadan who lives on a half-Dutch human settlement on Venus
Number Nine: Dystopian story following a sex robot's journey to leave the man she is with and get back to the couple that originally created her.
Number Ten: After the passing of her Aunt Pierre's husband, Rodger, Saydie Orson finds evidence that he may have had his eye on her, and the family, much earlier than they thought
You would not believe how long that took for me to type out, which might be a bad indicator. BUT, that's what we're doing. I would love to have you follow along on my journey into the unknown and I cannot express enough how much I appreciate you all for following along, whether you subscribe or not. If you made it to the end, I appreciate you the most of all. Plus, now, I get to quote my favourite YouTubers - click that Subscribe button for more of *this*!
A crack of lightning illuminated my room for a split second, pulling me from my tablet. My brother's empty bed, still a mess from our huge fight the day he moved out, became visible for a moment, reminding me that just watching him wasn't the same as having him there. I bit my lip and looked back at my screen. My brother was sitting on a bench, reading Anna Karenina and eating chips next to a fountain with a statue of cherubs peeing. He looked happier than I had ever seen him, especially since he was reading, which he never did while he was home. I watched him read for a few minutes until a dark-skinned girl with box braids sat down next to him and poked him. He looked up, smiled, and spoke to her.
I roughly translated what he said to be, “You like bothering me, huh?”, though I was nowhere near as good at French as he was. The girl laughed and replied back too quickly for me to translate. My brother replied by nudging her playfully and saying something about her admitting she liked him. The girl’s ears reddened, and she glanced down at her Nikes. My brother was equally embarrassed, since he was covering his face slightly with his book. They sat suspended in romantic tension for a second before another kid, an Arab boy with large ears, plopped down on the other side of my brother and snagged his bag of chips.
He said something that made my brother elbow him sharply and the girl shoot him an annoyed look. My brother reached for the bag of chips, which the Arab boy pulled away, then he and the girl tried to tackle the boy. Unfortunately for them, he leapt out of the way and the girl fell on top of my brother. The boy laughed and raced off, and once they untangled themselves, the two ran after him just out of my viewing window. I centered back on my brother after a few pensive seconds of watching the cherubs peeing. He and the girl had caught the boy by then. The girl had tackled the Arab boy and my brother snatched the chip bag away. Rayne said something smart-assed in French then walked back to the bench to retrieve his book. As he reached for the book, I guess he noticed the time because he ran back, blurted something that made the other two laugh and raced down the street towards the subway.
I slipped some cheesy potato chips into my mouth and readjusted so I could watch the scene unfold while laying down with the blankets pulled over my shoulders. My brother had emerged from the train station alone and met up with our dad’s wife’s daughter. I hadn’t realized how much my brother grew until he was standing with her, asking her how her day went. He still looked like a nine-year-old, but he had grown significantly in the five months since he got to earth. Instead of us being the same height as we’d been since birth, I’d probably be at his shoulder despite us being twins. I ate another chip and watched my brother try to read and walk at the same time.
Someone knocking on my door broke my focus on my iPad, though I didn’t stop watching yet. It wasn’t until the third knock and Yanvarina saying, “Sol?” from outside that I finally pulled myself away from my brother, now racing his stepsister to their Parisian apartment, and closed the app. I stretched, readjusted my pajama pants, which had sank and wrinkled in the eight hours I’d spent in bed, and hopped off the top bunk. Pins and needles seized my feet and I squealed in pain.
“What’s wrong!” Yanvarina screamed over her loudly kicking down my door. “Are you okay, Sol?”
“I’m fine,” I replied through gritted teeth. “Just… hurt when I got down.”
Yanvarina stood in shock, debating whether or not she should help me or if I had it, then decided to stand in the hallway and wait for me. After a few agonizing steps, my feet started to wake up and I was able to walk across the room. I looked at my door, which was cracked from the force of her kick then back at her.
“You didn’t have to kick the door like that,” I said.
“I thought you were hurt,” she said. I had to remind myself that she still didn’t have a lot of experience with human emotions and anatomy despite several thousand years of he helping my mom with my brother and me. “But um, I wanted to talk to you. Before I broke your door down. I’ll fix that before you go to bed.”
“Well, it’s late, I think. Don’t you sleep at six?”
I made a face. I hadn’t had a bedtime since my mother died. “I haven’t gone to bed at six since I was three.”
“Right, right. Well, I came down here because I know you have to eat at some point, and I wanted to help you cook dinner. Is it time for you to eat dinner? You still eat at five, right?”
I started to speak then noticed the red leather-bound book with golden Chinese writing on it that juxtaposed with her heavily tattooed fingers. It mirrored the one I found when we were cleaning out my mother’s belongings. I smiled at Yanvarina, who was swaying as if her feet hurt, and nodded.
“Yeah, I could eat.”
“Well good. I already set the kitchen up. Well, how your mother used to tell me to. Dickie’s down there. I hope you don’t mind.”
I smiled and shook my head. “No, it’s okay. I don’t mind at all.”
Yanvarina smiled and gestured awkwardly towards the kitchen. “Shall we go then?”
I nodded, slipped on my house shoes, and joined her. We walked slow, since she would stop every so often to admire the artwork my mother had peppered throughout the house. Photographs of my mom sitting for daguerreotypes in her silk hanfus as if she was a regal queen. Victorian paintings of her cradling my brother and I as babies while my father stood behind her. Kodiak pictures of my mom later in life, wrinkled and tired, looking forlornly out the window. Pictures my brother and I drew when we were kids. Framed cloths of our handprints and footprints as we grew.
The tapestry she had woven herself with a loom that she’d gotten for one of her birthdays that depicted her whole family line until a few years prior to her death. I paused to admire her handiwork almost every time I passed it, since it amazed me how she got the details of the faces and had all the names of her nieces and nephews and their descendants. She had even added my father and me and my brother, even though we weren’t born yet and she had broken up with my father by then. Now, upon looking like I always had, I noticed how she’d added the other eleven gods and goddesses, my father’s siblings, to the tapestry and done her best to spell their names and shade them right. I turned to see Yanvarina craning her neck to marvel at one, a silk tapestry of my mother and her family as well as my brother and I sitting all sitting on the floor drinking tea. Yanvarina ran her tattooed fingers along the stitching and a nostalgic grin began to grow on her face.
“I remember when she was making this one,” she said forlornly. “All she wanted was for them to meet you guys.”
“Yeah, she’d tell us about her family.” I was inspecting my ankle, which had a scar from when I was a baby and fell down the stairs. My mother had freaked out when I fell, since my ankle bone was so broken that it pierced my skin and blood got everywhere. Now it was just a slightly lighter line on my dark brown skin. I looked back at Yanvarina, who was still admiring the detailing of my mother’s tapestry. “Is someone down there with Dickie?”
“Oh yes, the little gay white guy that always wears the red hat.”
“His name’s Britton,” I murmured while stifling a laugh.
“Yes, that’s his name. I knew Brian wasn’t right. I told your father he should give them nametags, but he just refused to listen to me.”
The mention of Dickie had gotten Yanvarina moving again, though she was still sauntering though the halls and looking.
“Your mother loved art,” she muttered. We finally made it to the archway of the kitchen, but Yanvarina was admiring the final picture, a pregnancy painting of my mother’s outstretched stomach with my dad’s hands clasping her bare stomach from behind and her hands atop his. “Your father didn’t deserve her.”
“I guess she didn’t,” I murmured.
“Well, at least something good came out of that situation,” Yanvarina said quietly. “My brother really grew up after you guys were born.”
I didn’t respond. I didn’t really want to think of my dad. Sensing this, Yanvarina smiled weakly and ushered be into the kitchen. Dickie’s loud rattle greeted us. He sat on the counter in his bouncy seat, grinning widely at Britton as he attempted to whack him on the head. Britton laughed while dodging Dickie’s ferocious swings. Upon our entry, Britton looked at us and Dickie caught him on the head. He cursed, stepped away from the counter and rubbed his head.
“Damn rattle really hurts,” he murmured. His country accent always came out when he wasn’t paying attention.
“I’m surprised you were so close,” Yanvarina replied. In the moments between Dickie hitting Britton and Britton rubbing his head, she had procured an ice pack and tossed it to Britton. “Use that for your head. But wrap it in a towel or something. Your skin will stick to the ice if you don’t.”
Britton smiled awkwardly, wrapped the ice pack in a clean dish towel. and walked out of the kitchen. Yanvarina scolded Dickie in her soft motherly voice before putting his pacifier in his mouth and turning on the bouncing setting. She turned back to me and gestured towards the counter. There was a cutting board, several knives, and a bowl of mushrooms submerged in water on the counter. I made a face and joined Yanvarina at the counter.
“What are we making?”
“Well, I found this cookbook while I was cleaning my room.” She held up the red leather book with a grin. “She made it for my birthday. It was my first birthday, can you believe that?” Yanvarina looked down at the book then back at me. Her eyes were watery.
“She’d asked me what I did for mine and I told her I didn’t know what it was. This was a few weeks of her coming here. It was her first birthday alone, and I’d been talking to her a lot since my idiot brother blamed her for getting castrated. As if he wasn’t part of her getting pregnant… Anyway, so, she made this food for me. You know we don’t eat but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I’d never eaten before, and she could tell.”
Yanvarina paused. She was subconsciously thumbing through the book. “I loved your mom. She gave me her birthday so we could celebrate it together. It was a very fun day.”
“Oh.” I drummed my fingers on the counter. I forgot how smooth and cold it was since I hadn't helped cook since my brother decided to join our father in Paris. I looked at Yanvarina, who was thumbing through the book. “Is it today?”
“Your birthday? Is it today?”
Yanvarina laughed and wiped her left eye. “I almost asked how someone couldn’t remember their own birthday, but she died so long ago. No. It’s not for a few months. But we ate dinner together every night when you and Rayne were little. Your dad was finding himself or whatever the fuck he was calling it. Julyan was always weird. But, your mom needed help with you guys until he got his shit together. And let me tell you, two decades of changing diapers and nonstop crying will wear anyone out.” Yanvarina looked at Dickie, who had nodded off and was lightly snoring. “I have no idea how Nova deals with him. I’m surprised she only started letting other people take over watching him after your mom came.”
“I didn’t know Nova talked to my mom,” I murmured. I shifted my focus from Dickie’s bouncy chair to the jars of my mother’s spices that lined the back of the counter. “My mom always seemed so lonely.”
“Once Julyan decided he wanted to be a father, we decided to step back,” Yanvarina looked down at her fingernails and rubbed a spot where the paint was chipping. “I wish he hadn’t. We didn’t know being a father didn’t mean being a husband.” Yanvarina shifted her weight, sighed, and looked at me. “I guess we didn’t realize how young they both were. And having a human around was very different from watching them evolve.”
“Yeah, I understand.”
A ding came out from Yanvarina’s pocket. She pulled out her silver iPhone and huffed. “I don’t know which servant taught Gus how to use emojis, but they need to be slapped. He doesn’t even use words anymore, so it’s like a challenging game of rebus.” She flashed the phone screen at me, where there was a long thread of emoji-filled messages from Gus. “What does ‘snowflake, angel, watch, cherry, sun’ even mean?”
I stifled a giggle. “Maybe he wants you to hurry up?”
“Well, until he tells me that in words, I’m not in any hurry.” She silenced her phone and set it down near the bouncy chair. “I never told you what we were making, huh? I’m sorry. I miss Tian Le. We’re making egg rolls.” I must’ve looked puzzled because she added, “I guess she changed things to accommodate you guys, but this is the way she taught me. Cutting vegetables was always my job, but since I’m the head chef now, that’s your job.”
She gestured for me to take her place and set down a sharp butcher knife. “Watch your fingers. Your mother nearly had a heart attack when I cut my finger off the first time, and I know yours won’t grow back.” She took a mushroom out and squeezed it, while assuring me, “It doesn’t hurt them. Well, not like cutting them will. So,” she set the mushroom on the cutting board and nudged me over, “you’re going to cut it like this. In tiny strips.”
Yanvarina sliced the mushroom down the middle, then with a flurry of knife strokes, she julienned half the mushroom. She looked at her right hand in awe. “Usually I cut a finger off or two when I do that,” she murmured with a chuckle. She sifted through the mushroom shreds with a satisfied smile. “Your mother would be very proud.”
I smiled weakly, though Yanvarina’s hurried chopping had made my stomach fall into my pelvis. “Don’t worry,” she assured me. “You don’t have to go that fast. I have nowhere to be for a while, so you can cut as slow as possible.”
I took the knife from her and slowly sliced the mushrooms. Meanwhile, Yanvarina went to the refrigerator and started pulling out burlap bags full of vegetables and setting them on the table.
“I saw you didn’t have many vegetables, so I took the liberty of getting you some. I read how one out of five kids have cavities on Earth, and they cannot spare medical personnel right now because you decided that cookies and candy were a suitable dinner, so we have to keep you healthy.”
“Oh, I don’t really eat vegetables,” I muttered. I squeezed out another mushroom and sliced it up. “But thanks.”
“Oh, I talked to Britton about that. We need to get you on a regular diet. Both your parents would be pissed if they knew how much junk food you eat. Usually we run a tighter ship but with Fulgencio ruining this latest decade and probation, we just haven’t had time.”
“I know you try,” I murmured.
“Yes, but I can always try harder. I mean, I haven’t been in his house other than to look for something or to make sure it’s clean down here in ages. Did you know your servants hadn’t dusted the shelves in weeks?”
“We don’t really call them servants,” I mumbled. I squeezed another mushroom, the second to last, and slowly cut them up. “They were people at some point. None of them are tall enough to reach the shelves, and I’m never really in the front room anyway so it never bothered me.”
Yanvarina went silent. She was picking hairs off of the points of carrots. After a few minutes, she said, “I’m sorry. I forgot that your father resurrected your… humans… rather than making holograms like we have. I should probably apologize to the old one. I really laid into her about that dust.”
“She knows you don’t mean it,” I said. I was on my last mushroom and thanking the stars I was almost finished. The firm squish of the mushrooms was so uncomfortable. “They understand you’re under a lot of stress. I told them.”
“Your father let’s you tell the ser—humans—personal stuff about us?”
“It doesn’t matter what he lets me do. He’s not here,” I said a bit harsher than I meant to. I attempted to clean it up by adding, “Besides, they live here too. They should know what’s going on. Plus, they can’t really tell anyone else. I don’t like keeping secrets from them about stuff that bothers them.”
Yanvarina hmphed. “Well, I understand why. Your mother didn’t like that she couldn’t talk about things, and I’m sure you don’t like it either.”
She paused to wash the carrots then presented them to me. She grabbed a knife and demonstrated peeling and julienning them with a fat, wrinkled carrot. She set it on the cutting board and went to rinse some baby carrots. After a few minutes of quiet chopping, she spoke up again. “Speaking of talking, have you gone to see Rayne yet?”
I bit my inner cheek. The part of me that was worried that she was doing all of this to butt into my business was suspicious of her motives now that she broached the topic of my brother. “I watched him today. Juniper showed me this app—”
Yanvarina scoffed. “That’s not going to see him. I told Juniper she shouldn’t show you that app. It’s an excuse for you to not go see them.”
“I don’t want to see them,” I grumbled while chopping. The knife hitting the chopping board was making Dickie stir.
Yanvarina speed-walked to him and slipped his little earmuffs over his head. “Don’t need anymore COVID spikes,” she whispered to me. “We just got the numbers down to their lowest. Why wouldn’t you want to see them?”
“They left,” I growled. “Fuck them.”
I chopped the last bit of the first carrot hard, nicking the fat of my index finger in the process. “Shit,” I hissed, immediately thrusting my finger in my mouth. “Fucking knife.”
“Here.” Yanvarina cracked an egg into a bowl, peeled the fleshy white membrane off the egg, and gestured for my hand. I hesitated but Yanvarina pulled my arm towards her and wrapped the strip of membrane around my finger, then put a finger glove over it. “The egg will help you not have a scar, and it’ll heal it faster. I saw that on some hack video.”
“I thought you didn’t like technology,” I retorted snidely.
“Of course, I do,” Yanvarina said with mild shock. “Especially those hack videos. I actually do the food hacks every other week with Junie. We ironed a cheese sandwich just the other day. Didn't work worth a damn, but we had fun." she laughed. "You watching Julyan and Rayne on some app is different though.”
“So, you’ve been to see them?”
“Of course. I went as a stray cat a few days ago. Your brother is as sweet as ever. He’s gotten so much taller on Earth’s atmosphere. My brother’s still resentful though. You know that motherfucker kicked me because he found out who I was? He’d better be glad we are on probation now until the end of the year because I was going to go back as a bird and shit on his fucking head.”
I giggled. I remembered seeing my brother with the stray cat and thought it was familiar, but I never know about what happens with my dad since I avoid watching him. “How’d he know that it was you?”
“He wouldn’t pay attention to me, so I called his name.” She lifted up her T-shirt to expose a large purple haze the shape of Africa bleeding through the plethora of star tattoos that covered her entire torso. “I know he felt bad after it but I’m going to be pissed until this bruise goes away and my last bruise lasted two years.”
“Geez. I didn’t know he was so mad at you guys.”
“I didn’t either.” She put her shirt down. I noticed she was biting her inner cheek, which she never did. “I just wanted to tell him I missed him but that I’m happy he left.”
I stopped cutting and looked at her. My mouth had gone dry and all my muscles were spasming even though my hand appeared perfectly still. After a few minutes of willing myself to not cry, I squeaked out in as normal of a voice as I could muster, “Why would you be happy?”
“My brother is happy,” Yanvarina paused to check on Dickie. “All I’ve ever wanted was for him to be happy, and he hasn’t been right since Gus had him castrated.”
“He abandoned us.”
She shook her head. She was smiling, but I knew by the way she was focusing on the jars of spices lining the back of the counter that she wasn’t happy. She looked at the ceiling then back at me. Her smirk almost diverted my attention from a tear that was sliding down her left eye. “Your dad tried hard, but he was never really in your life, Sol.”
She started to say more but got choked up and walked to the kitchen sink and turned the water on. I waited for her to come back, but when she didn’t, I kept cutting in silence. I heard Yanvarina shifting pots and pans around in the cabinet behind me, then after a few minutes, she came back, wiping the dust out of a big black wok. I made a face.
“You make egg rolls in a wok?”
“Huh?” she looked up at me then back down at the pan. She continued drying it while talking. “No, I just realized that it’s getting close to six, so we’re going to make stir fry instead. I saw that there’s some steak in there that you can cut up.”
“Okay,” I muttered.
I finished the last baby corn then went into the fridge. Among my dwindling stash of white Gatorade, meal prep options that I hadn’t touched yet made by the head butler, and several stacks of KitKat bars, there were some produce wrapped up in varying papers. I grabbed the one that said “steak” with a smiling cow face on it and set it down on the counter. Pulling out the large slab of meat, my mind began to wander. This food was enough to feed an army, even if we had changed the recipe. I was halfway through slicing the steak before speaking up again.
“Are we the only ones eating?”
Yanvarina was behind me, frying rice. The sizzle of it made me wonder if I just couldn’t hear her, yet when I turned around, she was looking at her phone. She was biting around her silver fingernails, which she never did.
“V?” I said a bit louder.
“Hmm?” she still hadn’t turned around, but she set her phone down on the counter beside her. “Did you say something?”
“Are we the only ones eating tonight?” I had moved to the sink to rinse off the steak, and even though I should’ve been able to see her face, Yanvarina’s white hair obscured her face. I spoke again, hoping she’d turn to look at me. “This is a lot of steak, right?”
Yanvarina just stirred the rice and added in some more oil. “No, it’s enough for you to have a week’s worth of food or so. After that, someone will come back and get you some more groceries.”
I chuckled. “I don’t really eat food like that.” Yanvarina didn’t speak. I set the strainer full of raw meat on the counter and looked at her for a while. “You know, I’m not mad that you miss my dad.”
“I need the vegetables before the meat.”
“Oh,” I mumbled. I rinsed off the mix of julienned vegetables then handed it to her. “You know, I didn’t think you guys missed him. It always seemed like you didn’t like him.”
“He’s our brother,” she whispered. I could tell she was trying not to cry, and I felt bad for snapping at her. “Sure, I still have eleven other siblings technically, but everyone’s leaving. Soon, I think it’ll just be me, Dickie, and Nova.”
I let out a huff of laughter. “You think Gus is going anywhere?”
Yanvarina started laughing. “I hope so. I mean, he stays in his room a lot more which would be fine if he wasn’t still texting me. Guess how many texts I got from him while we were cooking?”
“Thirty.” She slid the meat into the pan and smiled at the sizzling concoction while shaking her head. “All of them are just lines of angry little red faces, crowns, and the little guy with his arms in an X. I don’t even understand him anymore.”
I laughed. Yanvarina turned the overhead vent on low and stirred quickly. Occasionally she would stop to add a dash of soy sauce or ginger, but she kept stirring until all the meat was brown and the vegetables had a tinge of brown along their edges. She turned off the heat, pulled the wok off the heat, and added a dash of oyster sauce. I grabbed a few porcelain bowls from one of the cabinets and set them on the counter. Yanvarina smiled at me and spooned food into two bowls. I started to pick them up but murmured in pain and drew my hand back.
“I can carry them. You grab Dickie.”
Yanvarina took the bowls, and I grabbed the sides of the bouncy chair. I slid it off the counter easily enough but Dickie weighed much more than I realized so I fell backwards onto the floor. As soon as I hit the ground Dickie awoke and immediately began to cry. I heard the bowls clamor on the table then Yanvarina ran back in. She picked up the bouncy chair and made hurried shushing sounds. Dickie only cried harder.
“Where’s his pacifier!” Yanvarina screamed.
“I—I don’t know.” I could feel my face getting hot and steamy. I scrambled to find his pacifier. Images of my mom’s funeral swirled in my mind and the longer I couldn’t find it, the more scared and anxious I felt. “I can’t find it!”
“It’s okay.” Yanvarina’s tone was quieter even though Dickie was still screaming. She had set the bouncy chair on the floor and pulled me into her lap. “Calm down.”
“But, people are dying,” I murmured.
“There are too many of them anyway,” she replied. When I looked at her in horror, she looked at the floor away from me. “It’s a God joke. Death happens all the time. If this stupid pandemic wasn’t happening, we wouldn’t even be this concerned about Dickie crying.”
“We still have to find the pacifier,” I replied. I didn’t realize I was crying until I heard how choked up I sounded.
“He’ll cry himself to sleep,” Yanvarina said. Her grip tightened on me so I couldn’t look for the pacifier against her wishes. “You need to relax, Sol.”
“I can’t relax,” I murmured.
“Your father couldn’t either.” Yanvarina was starting to rock slowly. “He hated when I’d do this to him.”
“What do you mean?”
“When things first started and we made humans, your dad was so freaked out. He was so uptight about everything. Humans were our first creations since the whole dinosaur thing, and your father was scared that he was going to mess up. Every time it was his turn to watch over them, he was so careful to make sure they were okay.” She paused to wipe her face. “It didn’t surprise me when he said he impregnated your mother. He loved being down there. It was a matter of time before he messed up.”
“What do you mean?” I was watching Dickie. His whole face was flushed red, glistening tears streamed down both cheeks, and he hollered loud enough to alert most of the workers in the house though none of them seemed to be able to enter the kitchen.
“I mean that your father cared too much. We could all see it. Especially Gus. The oldest sibling always has to be right.” Yanvarina laughed. “You know, right after he first slept with your mom, Julyan was walking on air. Nova noticed and told me the prophecy was coming true. I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, but apparently, your mother’s parents asked the ancestors whether their daughter would be blessed, and it said yes. That was the prophecy. She would have you and your brother, come here, and change us.”
I looked at her. “So, you knew about us?”
“Oracles aren’t specific,” she replied. “But more or less, we could tell Julyan would be the one to break the rule and fall for a human.” Then, quieter, she added, “I just wish we knew how it would break him.”
My brow dipped. “How’d we break him when Gus is the one that castrated him?”
“To be fair, Gus didn’t physically do it. Your dad still has his testicles, he just can’t use them. Which is basically all the pain of castration with none of the blood. Very effective.”
“That’s not what I meant." I started to chuckle though the tears were still falling. "Why would I want to know about my dad’s testicles?”
“Seemed like that was what you were asking. Your dad was always such a perfectionist before that. He just never liked to disappoint anyone, and having you guys disappointed us. Mainly Gus. I like babies so I was excited that we got new ones. Dickie’s okay, but I was not expecting to have to jump into baby care right after that meteor killed those dinosaurs.”
She watched Dickie. He was still screaming, though it’d quieted significantly. Every once in a while, he’d pause for a second to suck his thumb, notice us still looking at him, and kick back up. Yanvarina sighed.
“I’d be mad at me for missing your dad.”
“He did abandon you guys. I meant what I said about you guys never having him since he really threw himself into being a god after your births, but you were his responsibility. Plus, we never made him deal with you before your mother died, and after, it was just too late. He blamed your mother for what happened and threw himself into his work while she raised you two."
Dickie finally gave up on convincing us he was sad and was merely whimpering around his thumb, which was securely in his mouth, every few seconds as his eyes drooped. Yanvarina laid her head on mine and continued. “Julyan had missed every birthday, milestone, and strange habit by the time he became you guys’ guardian. Plus, when Tian Le passed, you guys were in school and were essentially autonomous. I don’t think he realized how much he missed until then, and he really just couldn’t recover. All he had to show for himself was a bunch of myths about being a thunder god that fucks every woman in the world and a bunch of strange animal creations. Though I think he was in a really low place when he made the platypus though all of Australia is a bit questionable.”
“So, we didn’t ruin Dad’s life?”
She looked at me. “Who told you that you guys ruined your father’s life?”
I started to bring up Fulgencio but decided against it. “Gus?”
“Gus is an angry fossil that wishes he could get laid,” Yanvarina huffed, “and anyone else that said something can go fuck themselves. Except Nova because she’ll fight me if you tell her that. But everyone else can. You should never feel like you don’t belong in your own family. You’d think we would’ve learned that lesson with Julyan.”
I didn’t say anything. Yanvarina squeezed me tight then patted my arm. “We should go eat, huh?”
“I guess.” I stood up.
Yanvarina stood as well, pulled a pacifier from her pocket and clipped it to Dickie’s onesie, then carried him into the dining room. I followed her. The large dark table looked so empty with the sixteen empty chairs around it. Yanvarina sat Dickie down on the table, sat down at her usual place, and patted the seat next to hers. Fulgencio’s chair at the head of the table. I sat down and looked down the long row of empty chairs. I could scarcely remember a time that it was all filled with laughter and chaos. Gus’s angry grumblings at the twins for stealing each other’s food. Nova’s snide remarks to my dad, who always answered by murmuring something mildly sexist under his breath. My mother giggling in the chair beside him, even though they hadn’t been together since I was born. Fulgencio smirking at the insanity of his family, even though he was doing shady shit to the humans on the side.
“It’ll happen again,” Yanvarina murmured as she took a bite of stir fry.
I blinked away the memory. “What?”
“This table won’t always be so empty,” she repeated. She ate more of her food. “It seems like it now, but they’ll all be back.”
Yanvarina shrugged. “That’s up to him. He screwed us by interfering so blatantly in that 2016 election, but Fulgencio is always a dick. We send him to the torture chambers every few decades to remind him that he’s not above anyone, then he either comes back and repents or spends the next century plotting on how to screw the humans again. It’s nothing new. Hell, you should’ve seen what happened after the Holocaust. I didn’t think we’d ever see Fulgencio again.” She stirred the food in her bowl. “You should try this. It’s really good. Your mom would be proud.”
“This all just happens?” I asked before eating. It burned my tongue, so I ended up juggling the food in my mouth before letting it fall back into the bowl.
Yanvarina pretended not to notice but handed me some paper towels. “Yep. That’s just the natural ebb and flow of things.”
“Oh,” I tried to eat another, smaller portion of rice, though it tasted like I was swallowing lava. “Do you think my dad will come back?”
Yanvarina shrugged. “Yeah, eventually. Humans don’t last long. Now, if he fell in love with a tortoise, I’d have my doubts, but he isn’t. I think when she inevitably dies, he’ll come back and bring Rayne back with him. Just be nice to Rayne when he gets back. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that punishing someone for trying something new just makes them resent you.”
I ate some more and thought of Yanvarina’s bruised ribs. “Good to know.”
Brandon was fixing his hair in the mirror when the buzzer to his apartment rang. He made one final adjustment and opened the door. A short l stout black lady in pink glasses, a stained lab coat, and pajama pants greeted him with two bottles of cheap tequila in one hand and a bag of McDonalds in the other Brandon smiled and stepped aside so she could enter. He punched in a code on his door and the security measures enabled.
"It's like you knew the way to my heart was to get me drink and feed me bullshit," he said, turning to face her
"I just brought over my normal dinner," she responded. She had taken her lab coat off to reveal a red tank top and was pulling her pajama pants off.
"Well, Admiral Tse approves," Brandon said with a chuckle. "I'm surprised you actually attempted to dress up for this."
"You made it seem like we were doing more than just getting drunk and fucking around, so figured maybe it might be an idea. Plus, more clothes for if we play strip poker again." She unrolled the tank top until it reached just above her knees.
"You're the weirdest person I've ever met, Rheme," Brandon chuckled.
"You were not stripped down to just your thong in strip poker after two hands. I come prepared."
Brandon smiled and kissed her. "It's not like I didn't warn you I was good when we first met."
"Hmm. Do I remember what exactly we did thirty years ago?" She dramatically pretended to think. "I think not."
Brandon's hand slid down just below her waist. "You did drink a lot."
"And smoked a lot of weed. And did a lot of cocaine."
"God, we did so much cocaine," Brandon said, laughing. "I'm surprised we can still smell."
"Shall we get started?"
"Of course, Lauren," Brandon said smiling.
Rheme's smile faded. Brandon's face reddened. "I'm sorry, Rhe, I just--"
"I understand," Rheme said, feigning a smile. She'd pulled away from him and was unwrapping the food. "You still miss her."
"It's not all the time." Brandon sat next to her. She wasn't looking at him. Brandon tried to hold her hand but she pulled her hand away. "Being with you really has been helping. But, I mean, she's the mother of my kids."
"I understand," Rheme said. Her voice was shaky and she was looking at the floor. "I promise it's okay."
She felt Brandon wrap his arms around her. "You're important to me."
"Don't shut down on me, woman."
"I'm not shutting down."
"Thirty years of knowing you, and you think I can't tell when you're shutting down?"
"I just want to eat and get fucking wasted," Rheme muttered.
Brandon just held her tighter. "Not until you talk about how you feel."
"You're the worst," she murmured.
"That's why I'm your bestie with the testes," Brandon kissed her forehead and pulled her into his arms. "Speak your mind."
"I just wish we--I hadn't broken off our engagement."
"I mean, it's not like I don't still have the ring. The kids are all grown, and even if they weren't, fuck them kids, remember?"
Rheme chuckled. Brandon kissed her again. "I haven't been feeling good, B."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't want to traumatize my girls. They already have lost so much. Plus, Mae is getting engaged and Nae has that new job and I can't hurt them--"
"Rheme, what are you talking about?"
"I tried to hang myself. That's why I jumped at the chance to come over again."
"Oh. Baby, I--"
"You know how I feel about that word."
"I'm sorry. I just, I love you. I never want you to do anything like that to yourself."
Brandon was rubbing his finger on Rheme's neck. In the dull light of his living room, he could see the dark line where she had attempted to hang herself.
"You love me?"
"Well, don't sound so shocked," Brandon chuckled. "I know how we started but I mean, there's a reason you're the only friend with benefits I've ever had for longer than a year."
Rheme smiled and kissed him. "Well, I love you too. I always have."
"Well, let's eat so I can show you how much I love you."
Gnawing at My Ankle
I miss curiosity. I miss the days when I could stare at the sun for hours (despite clear warnings not to) and ponder what made it burn so bright. Bright and painful, burning my corneas while the other kids' screams of joy faded in the background. I miss being able to bury my head in the sand and find my own world. I miss the buzzes of creation flashing like lightning bugs around my head after I saw a new thing. I miss a time when the highway of ideas ran nonstop instead of only thinking of bills and money and how I can climb the slippery walls of the maze I'm trapped in and escape the rat race. I miss the days of having nothing to worry about except whether or not it would rain and if your friend would be there the next day.
There is no joy in my mind anymore. there are the faux words, strung to sound like myself though I feel like the bread left over after a toddler has surgically removed the cheese, lettuce, tomato, and ham one by one, sucking the flavor of them all and tosing them aside. Perhaps its the medicine to steady the moods that used to sway like a ship or maybe it's that I feel like the other disciples too afraid of the sea threatening to Titanic their biblical ship to notice that Jesus is standing on fucking water. Maybe I'm just doomed to continually drown until I make like all the authors in those books I look at all around my room and just fade to obscurity and die penniless on the street. This is truly morose, but what's to be expected when one loses their job and is faced with a mountain of bills and debt collectors and loan sharks smacking metaphorical bats in gruff hands. They have lawyers for that now.
What if i were to just disappear and end up walking down a street in Amsterdam with my dreadlocks discreetly tucked into a scarf and holding a Michael Kors bag with a hamster's chubby face hanging out? No one ever expects a hamster. It feels like it's been years since I've been able to write a scenario of any sorts. I think I know how a thirty-eight year old football player feels in third quarter after they just came back from a hamstring injury. I've missed words but God is it hard to keep going. That's how I feel nowadays. It's hard to keep going. I fill my day with arbitrary tasks because taking naps just isn't fun anymore. Taking a nap on a lazy day used to feel nice and now it just makes me feel like a waste of time and space.
There used to be a time when being alive didn't feel so daunting. I wish I could go back and find the exact second when I started to feel like Atlas, being crushed under the weight of the real world and unable to escape. There feels like no out, and any out I can foresee will take years to enact because it's never just me. That's how they get you. Ensnare others who will keep you accountable so you'll never leave, never be able to fully get away. How do people survive this tribulous span of adulthood before they get the relief of becoming an elder? When will this journey become enjoyable instead of a constant, careful labryrinth of choices that will blindside you twenty-three steps down the road?
The Dog Days Are Over
Melted ice-cream cones on fallen leaves
As we hold hands and watch the sun fall.
The horizon tinted indigo, sherbert clouds
Forming a frothy sea where stars dance
Like the embers twinkling in the distance,
The last campfire of parting high schoolers.
Memories being made through tears,
Blanketed girls clutching their sweethearts
In one hand and a marshmallow-filled
Stick in the other while laughing gleefuly,
Reminiscing on old teachers and principals.
Little kids walking past, yawning and whining,
Five more minutes, ten more minutes, we beg;
We all beg Father Time for more time to spend
Dancing in the glow of summer another night
Before the chill of autumn gives way to winter.
The Depth of Death
This is actually based on a true idea I had after my grandfather was diagnosed with dementia. My grandfather, maybe because of Vietnam or losing my uncle when he was young, had already planned the way he wanted his funeral and had left all sorts of notes and clues around their (extremely cluttered) house for things about his life and stuff he wanted us to know. Because I struggle with suicidal thoughts and self-harm, I came up with the idea of creating my own death book essentially that details not only what I would want to happen but also allows whoever finds it to contact all my friends whom I've met online or who live far away to connect with them.
The book I've started writing follows Marigold Harrison, a grieving mother who has just lost her young daughter, Courtney, in a car accident. While cleaning her daughter's room, she finds a notebook that details how her daughter wants her final services to be. Then, she later realizes that the journal lays out a journey that her daughter lays out for her to become connected to the family that Courtney built for herself. Through this journey, she finds healing and peace with her daughter's untimely passing.
Prologue - Bury Me
The day my grandfather died, my heart sank to my toes. I still remember the call, at the mall on a date with a boy I had been admiring for years. He liked me despite my flaws like the scars that lined my arms and my skin speckled with pimple scars and the patches in my hair from pulling and pulling it when I was stressed. I remember how soft his hand was, the taste of the milkshake, the haziness of the never-washed windows in the dome of Eastwoods Mall. I loved this mall as a kid, always had good memories. It made sense that the most picturesque memory would be here. Now. Then the call.
I love calling my mom. Not just because I know that inevitably, she'll be snooping through my room and find this. Or maybe, the inevitable will happen and I will actually go through with my plans that I detail at the beginning of this book. But, the page I always skip now comes in handy, right? Anyway, I didn't want to answer, and now I can't imagine not answering. Not dropping the vanilla milkshake all over myself. Not immediately wretching my hand from his, running outside to my car, remembering I hadn't driven to the mall, panicking in the parking lot until he found me and pulled me into a tight squeeze to keep me from clawing my face noticably. My mom is going to be upset reading this, knowing that she had to ruin a date when she thought I was at work.
I dreaded the day I had to lose him. My first grandparent. We were close, thick as thieves, as he'd say before a hearty "AARGH!" and brandishing a paper towel roll. I loved the game, tying one of his large gym socks around my eye and screaming, "en garde!" before we raced around the house. I looked at the sea of faces, some I knew, some I didn't. Clutching the podium, I tried to get my memories together. Laying on his chest and protesting naptime sleepily, taking pictures of him in my graduation gown, calling him accidentally instead of my ex drunkenly and laughing for two hours, getting picked up after detention, racing the motorized shopping carts. My dad took my hand and helped me from the podium while everyone else softly cheered for my bravery.
There's now just a looming threat that I'll go to a mental hospital all because I attempted suicide at fifteen after my grandmother had a heart attack, and we thought she may not make it. Though that was almost a decade ago, everyone still worried that I would lose it. I did, in a way. I mean, a girl doesn't wear capris in summer because they want to, but I was not going to put my family through that. Not again. I can't watch my family suffer through another death. Thus, I asked my therapist for help. Now, Dr. Holly is one of my favourite people for her out of the box explanations. Knowing my OCD and perfection issues, she had heard me out for how I wanted to die and reminded me that everyone would mess up my final wishes.
It was true. While in the mental hospital, I had missed my great aunt's funeral. Not only was I upset that I was unable to be there to see her funeral be planned. My great aunt was ninety-three, and our compatible Zodiac signs and general temperaments made us closer. Throughout my life, she had essentially planned her entire funeral through me. Being unable to fulfill them, including adding her aborted baby to her obituary alongside her deceased daughter, continues to follow me daily. Therefore, I pondered and I figured instead of resuming cutting and purging or possibly driving off a bridge, I would put my energy into writing this book. My little death book, title pending, essentially is just my idealized way of planning my death so I don't actually cause it.
In the event that you find this, Mom (since I know you're reading this -_-), I'm not gonna die. I'm not suicidal. I'm just venting. Please, just put the book back in the drawer, ignore the dildo (I will not explain), and pretend you never saw anything. And since you're just going to come in and keep reading like you used to do with my diary (yes, I knew about that too), enjoy the ride and don't judge me or my decisions. You chose this.
Last Love Song by ZZ Ward
Jesus, I have lost all comfort in my ability to be myself. I feel like a hermit crab now, naked and afraid in the open ocean, trying to get to a new shell since I feel myself suffocating in this one, but knowing that coming out of my current one will leave me open to whatever eats hermit crabs. Piranhas. Let's go with piranhas. Anyway, I feel like this is a step I need to take to start to walk towards whatever my true happiness is. Not to say you weren't true happiness, but I am currently doing a Scooby-Doo-style running through different doors and getting to the same place to get to where I'm trying to go. I guess at some point you have to look the bad guy in the eye and make the choice that you're gonna figure out how to trap him and expose him and save the failing business from the shady businessman who was doing weird shit to garner more money.
I haven't felt this comfortable talking in a while. I guess I can explain why I'm like this. Last September, my great-aunt died, and I had a mental break and was sentenced (that's a fun word. More like gently led to and left at) a mental hospital for a little bit. Ten days of learning boundaries and slowly reattaching to reality. Before that, I had been uncovering whatever weird sexual abuse I'd gone through that my brain had locked up in some mental Guantanamo Bay with my therapist. But then, they diagnosed me with bipolar disorder (or borderline personality disorder because everything's on a goddamn cyclical spectrum nowadays), and that has been the hardest diagnosis to face thus far.
I feel all the feelings currently, so let's slow it down and get deep. I have technically known that I am bipolar since fourth grade. This child, let's call him Amir since that was his name, specifically told me that I was bipolar because I did not like him and used him for candy and money. But what fourth grader can articulate their incapability of whatever "love" is supposed to feel like because of some internal pain they don't exactly understand? There is mental blindness when it comes to trauma, and apparently, I am Stevie fucking Wonder when it comes to this situation because I can feel there's something there, but I cannot see it, and trying to uncover it has been a labyrinth of awful gut feelings and obscurely strange memories.
We can start with what I do know. The person you met was me. I am, well was, comfortable in my own very unique skin. I like obscure references, making jokes, using GIFs, reading, writing... when I say you got about as much of me as anyone ever has, I mean it. You really were my first love, and I will always hold that close to me. But I also know that I have an unhealthy attachment style of needing someone desperately and not needing them at all. I know that what you did, leaving constantly for whatever reason it was that time, was, at the very least, extremely hurtful. Pretending you were gay so I would stop loving you hurt me. You hurt me with some of your actions, and those are actions that I have to forgive.
They're actions that I do forgive. I can still feel the vitriol for them when I remember you because I have never fully acknowledged that pain. I can't say you aren't important to me or that what you did even remotely takes away the love and joy and happiness I feel when I remember you, but it still happened. I really want you to know that you leaving seventeen months ago (yes, ya girl's been counting) hurt me badly. I mean, you basically told me that you were addicted to Valium, told me you were going to sleep and would talk to me later, and just never came back. If you're reading this, part of me wants to refer you to the Cardi B GIF "WHAT WAS THE REASON" but part of me just, is tired. I want to know that you're okay simply because you're important to me, and I love you. Not romantically, not anymore, but just simply as a person. You are such an amazing person and someone that I want to have nothing but the best in this world.
I hope you're alive. I remember having this dream of you standing on a blue-tinted white beach in all white, smiling at me about two and a half months after you left. It freaked me out since that's the typical death scene in every movie, but I guess I should've felt calm since it signified peace in some way. I'm running out of steam now, but the point is, I love you, dude. I want myself to have the same peace and joy that I wish for you, and I know that in order to do that, I have to say goodbye. So, listen to the song in the title and know that this is the last love letter I'll be sending you and that I don't expect you to come back. Thank you for being the example of what I wanted in a soulmate, and I hope that I've helped you in some way too. Adios, pendejo. [Use that Rosetta Stone you spent all that money for :P]
Thunderstorm of Thoughts
The boom of thunder forced my eyes to snap open and my whole body was seized by the tremblance of my house. A scream was caught in my throat, and I was choking on it. The indigo haze of confusion melted into a foggy blue hue against the lavender walls we painted less than nine months ago when we moved into this house. My eyes focused on the mistaken patch on the white ceiling, and I willed my body to relax. My senses took over. My brother screaming obscenities at Splatoon downstairs. The gust of rain on the window panes. The rustling of the trees. I stretched, regaining control of my limbs, and peered at my phone. Three in the afternoon and three missed messages. I answered quickly and got up. My mother would be home in an hour for our trip to Cleveland for my college orientation.
College had never been on my mind, but after being forced to one too many college expos and schmoozed by a college recruiter, I applied to a single college and got accepted. The college was four hours away, just outside of Cleveland. While I had been to other states, the looming thought of leaving home was weighing on me like an elephant was asleep on my chest. I was a late bloomer in the sense of teenage experiences. I had gotten my license at seventeen but still hesitated to drive anywhere. I had never slept over at any friend's house that wasn't related to me or connected to someone who was related to me. I hadn't even had a job yet, nor even looked for one, despite writing several resumes in classes. The idea of jumping out of the fishbowl and into the Great Lake was suffocating me.
I was still shaking at the thought of leaving, even in the car with Cincinnati disappearing behind us. My mother was beside me, tapping an Erykah Badu song onto the steering wheel. Kings Island was fading in the distance, looking like a masterpiece of geometric pipe cleaners. Maybe I'd go for my last summer in the city before the college hijinks I had seen on TV would set in. Part of me didn't feel ready. Well, all of me didn't feel ready. My mother seemed to notice. I wasn't the first to go to college, far from it, but no one had good stories. College was just a painful rite of passage apparently.
The queasy feeling was taking over my brain when my mother turned the music down. She knew that I hadn't been sleeping, but this was long before my mental health had begun to be unpacked. At that time, I was just a lazy, spoiled teenager who spent too much time on her computer and not enough time being an adult. Yet, my sleep schedule was getting concerning, especially since last summer, I was so depressed I could only bring myself to sleep, watch TV, scroll on dating sites, and research the arbitrary on my laptop.
"Did you sleep at all?"
"Nah," I murmured. I was looking at my shorts, making sure the faint red marks were covered enough that no questions would be asked. "I fell asleep around seven."
"The nerves will go away. Plus, you liked it before. I'm sure orientation is going to be fun."
"It won't be like my experience," she assured me.
My mother had gotten into an extremely difficult arts program only to realize that not only did she hate her whore roommates, every frat boy they brought to her dorm, and the program she was in, but that her ongoing struggle with epilepsy and constant exhaustion from her program had her crying nightly and contemplating dropping out like my father had. The only reason she finished at all was because of her surprise birthday gift, hearing my heartbeat at the gynecologist. We were close to Columbus now, and the knot in my stomach had reached monkey fist knot status.
"I just am worried. I only applied to one college. I like the program, and I'm excited, but it's new. What if it doesn't work out?"
"You can always quit," she said, reciting one of the family quotes. "I'd rather you quit while you're ahead than stick with something you hate. I don't want you to be stuck in a job you despise."
"I understand." I squeezed my feet around my bookbag and answered a text from my friend in Maryland. We had been roleplaying for a while, though it was nothing serious. I had never done anything serious. "I'm hoping it'll go well."
"Of course it will. And if not, it's not the end of the world."
I smiled for the first time in a while. A Taylor Swift song was quietly playing on the radio. "Thanks, Mother."
"Don't call me that," she grumbled playfully. "I'm not that old."